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Stephen Gottlieb: There’s No Use For A Disloyal Opposition

This should be a time to celebrate the romance of Valentine’s Day. My wife and I have now celebrated 54 as husband and wife, and we had a lovely dinner brought to our door. But I’m still overwhelmed by what happened Saturday.

I got a note that night from a dear friend who wrote me noting that “only seven Republicans … voted to convict” and adding

Hopefully that party will die like the W[h]igs and another will take its place. We need two responsible parties in our country not just one and the other a bunch of kooks. [It’s v]ery disturbing.

My friend was referring to the pre-Civil War Whig Party, which had been Lincoln’s party until he helped create the Republican Party to end slavery. My friend’s point about needing “two responsible parties” echoes my commentary a couple of weeks ago when I said on this station that “We all have a stake in a loyal opposition – not one dedicated to pulling down the pillars of the temple.” Yet after a man in our highest office organized an attempted coup to stay in power like a foreign despot, most Republican senators refused to find him guilty of insurrection and instead protected his ability to run for office again. That vote was disloyal to America. This is not the behavior we have a right to expect from our elected officials. Armed mobs trying to impose their way on the rest of us do not belong in a democratic country.

I will soon make some proposals to try to keep our country sane now that, at least, Trump is out of office. But as I’m writing this what really needs to be expressed is the horror and the anger.

Talk about needing a national conversation is not enough. It’s not enough partly because it’s mostly aimed across the aisle – that Democrats and decent folk should listen to extremists, not the other way around. It’s not enough because it’s perverted in the Republican twist – blaming Democrats for the intransigence of Republicans. It’s not enough because there can be no sympathy for traitors, for people willing to pull the trigger on public officials and on American democracy. That’s a bridge too far, much too far.

Better to put up a wall of shame on the Mall where I heard Martin Luther King tell us about his dream –I’d put the names of Trump and each and every one of the Senators who voted to protect him on that wall of shame to be remembered and despised forever. I don’t recognize our country in those senators and their supporters in the House.

Many have come to understand how dangerous and despotic Trump’s violent supporters are and are looking for or have found new political homes. I admire their courage and willingness to learn from events. Many others should be hanging their heads in shame. There’s no listening at the point of a gun; there’s only fighting back.  We need a loyal opposition, not the disloyalty of current Republican leadership.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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